I went to the temple in the morning. To pray for a better verdict. My mind mocked and laughed. But my heart believed. I have always been naive. My mother said so. My father said so. You said so…a million times; sometimes with a smile on your face and a kiss on my cheek, sometimes with a belt in your hand.
The country has decided that your crime was so atrociously heinous that they had to put an expiry date on your dreams, hopes, ambitions and memories. Putting you away in that hellhole for the rest of your life, would not be bad enough – you deserved a confirmed, well-known expiry date.
I had heard that Dharamjay’s mother did not come to see him, the reality did not win in her favour. She chose delusion instead – waiting for her son till the day age tied a noose around her throat, leaving her hanging off of the face of earth till she tore away into oblivion. You’ll know what lies there soon. At least you’ll know what we all want to know. A wonder revealed, a mystery answered. Answers.
I want to know why you did it. I never dared to ask – out of fearful reverence for you. You never dared to explain – in fear of what you might learn of yourself.
Was it worth it though? I cannot, for the life of me, understand why you did it. My mother rambled, “Sometimes, men cannot control themselves. They need to feel powerful. They don’t know what they do. It is how they are made.” I don’t understand that. I doubt my mother does. Maybe I am being naive, but I know you. I have lived with you and taken care of you for the past so many years. I fail to see you as a savage beast driven by hormones, ripping off another person’s clothes to satisfy your libido. I know that it was preceded by conversation. I know that it was planned – maybe rashly and spontaneously – but you knew what you were doing.
Then, why? You only had to come home to me. If you needed variety in your bed, you could go to a sex worker like I know you did in your youth. I had imagined that you had treated the sex workers you met, with respect and courtesy. The bed is an intimate place. One must feel safe and secure before one can open oneself to another. The bed must be like spring, letting the petals open out in glory before the eye of the flower is revealed. More reliable the spring, sooner is the blooming, you know that. Now, I shudder to think of the burning summer wrecked on the beds of the people who served you.
Was it to correct her? Then, why is it that it is always women in the wrong? Why was it always my body that held the scars, and your hand that held the belt? Why is it that you feel the need to not only correct the women at your home, the woman bound to you by the fires of matrimony – but to correct every woman, everywhere, who refuses to recognise you as her master?
Men are in the wrong too, just as often as women are – but only a man holds the license to correcting a man. Never a woman. Not in my world.
Some woman on TV says that it is because you never held a white-collar job, because you were never one of the people running our country. Your powerlessness makes you seek out people you can overpower. Because you belong to an “underprivileged powerless class”. But then, why do men running our country, rape? And, why do we not hear stories of the millions of powerless women in our country raping? I’m more powerless than you ever were, but I would never want to do to anyone what you did to that woman. You see, I do not think that men rape to assert their power; I think they rape to maintain it.
I still remember the shudder that ran down my spine, along its familiar route, every time you asked Unmesh to bring your belt. You could bring it yourself, but you liked announcing it to the room, knowing that half the pain is in the anticipation. I forgave you every time. I believed it is your right. I did not ask many questions back then. I loved you. For every time your hands broke a bone, there was a beautiful sari you could ill-afford. For every bruise, a kiss. For every time you pushed me into bed, there was a time I coaxed you into mine. You acquiesced because in your world a man never refuses sex. I acquiesced because in my world a wife never refuses her husband. For a lifetime of pain, there was a lifetime of indebtedness – for you looked after me, for you looked after your son. In my world, men can leave when they wish, for they do not have to depend on another to be fed.
There was an old Hindu man on TV who talked about how he had raped a young Muslim woman during the Gujarat riot, for “when you know a mango will be squashed, you might as well eat it first.” He said it in front of his wife, hoping that it will provide justification to his action. But, I do not think that the wife’s silence is proof of her husband’s moral and logical correctness. I think that the wife’s silence is only proof of her helplessness. I think there is a belt in her house too; hanging like a noose around her mouth, silencing her thoughts, judgments and hopes.
We are women who were never taught to feed ourselves, only to please a man, any man, who can feed us.
I might be testifying to my naiveté in this letter, but I want to promise you that I will find a way to take care of myself and my son. I know that this world holds few promises for “underprivileged” people of a “powerless underclass”, but I will not disappear. I will survive. I have lost a lot of respect in the eyes of my son, I realise that now. It was never my fault, but nevertheless, I will rectify it. I promise you that he will not be a powerless man or a powerful man. He will be a respectable man who respects others – men and women – in the basic way that he would expect to be respected as a human being. He will be loved for reasons; not blindly worshipped by a person who must convince herself that her duty is her choice.
I am a woman who has just begun to ask questions, but has not found many answers. I am a woman who is not done being naive, but I promise you that I will pray for you everyday till the noose slaps your body, and the familiar shudder runs down mine for the last time. Everyday that people – known and unknown – deride me on the streets for having been wedded to you, I will pray that you find peace. And I will hope that you will pray for me too.
Thank you … for every act of kindness.